Exercise, Life

Daily Decisions

Hello, and happy Tuesday!

How was everyone’s weekend? I didn’t have the most productive weekend in the world. But I did get a new iPhone on Saturday morning, so I’m pretty sure that gives me a free 24-hour pass to be anti-social and gadget-obsessed (and to take selfies).

No, I did not wait for the new iPhone to come out. I don't want to discuss it.

No, I did not wait for the new iPhone to come out. I don’t want to discuss it.

After the Ducks got done undressing Virginia Continue reading

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Exercise, Weightloss

A call for help

I really like cheeseburgers. I have been eating an awful lot of cheeseburgers this month and I can’t say that I’m all that sorry about it. They’re just so appropriate in this beautiful (kinda) weather we’re having.

While burgers and sweet potato fries have been frequenting my plate, I have also been Continue reading

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Exercise, Health, Mind and Body, Weightloss

My heart is smiling

Okay, so I’ve been busy. Busy working. Busy working out. Busy with life.

Between work, errands, chores, and a social life, it can be a struggle to squeeze in a fitness class that you’re not familiar with. But despite life’s many complications, I would like for everyone to make a solid effort at taking a hot yoga class. I did, and I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision.

Call it what you want: hot yoga, Bikram yoga, Continue reading

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Exercise, Food, Health, Weightloss

In spite of cupcakes

Yay, it’s May! We can finally thank the showers for the all these pretty flowers. From where I’m sittin’, it has been a wonderful month so far. But that’s probably because I’m always in a good spirits in May. It is my Birthday month after all, and many of my favorite Taurean people are also celebrating.

My cheery mood probably also has something to do with Continue reading

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Exercise, Health, Weightloss

Day 1

Whether we’re ready or not, we’re halfway through April. Before we know it–in a little over two months–it’s going to be summer!

Last night, to kick-off my summer fitness plan, I went out and got myself a one-last-horrah-dip-cone from Dairy Queen. Did you know that they discontinued the butterscotch flavor? Rude. I got chocolate instead.

So today, April 13th, was Day One of my plan (it’s also exactly one month until my Birthday). I took ‘before’ pictures and everything. My goal is to lose a significant amount of body fat and tone muscle in time for summer. Ideally, I’d like to lose 15-20 pounds. Since I’ve heard that 90% of body fat loss is attributed to diet, that will be the most important aspect that I focus on during the next two months. I’m sure you’re all wondering what exactly my plan is, so let me give you a quick run-down.

Eating:

  • No more muffins, no cookies, no ice cream, no candy. Nothing in the junk food zone.
  • Small meal portions.
  • Snack (healthily) often.
  • Limit of one diet soda per day. Drink water in its place.
  • Eat mostly fruit, vegetables and lean protein.

Exercise

For Month 1:

  • Any level of Jillian’s 30-Day Shred (I want to see if it works), 5 days a week.
  • A different workout of my choice 1-2 days a week.
  • Me and my friend Kenzie are going to try a FREE week of yoga classes at Core Power in Portland.

For Month 2:

  • Challenging workout of my choice 6 days a week.
  • Take various fitness classes (spinning, zumba, yoga, aerobics).

After my first 30 days are over on May 13th (my Birthday), I plan on taking another set of ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures and going out for a celebratory Birthday dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Oh yes, I will be eating cheesecake and pasta on my Birthday. Then, I will proceed on with the next 30 days and take more pictures at the end of round two. Don’t worry, I’ll post all my results pictures despite how unsightly they might be.

I’ll be trying plenty of new recipes and exercise routines so be sure to check back. Also, I’m interested in hearing about healthy recipes and good fitness classes in the Portland area. If you have any suggestions feel free to leave them in a comment.

Wish me luck…actually, don’t wish me luck. Wish me strength and will power.

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Exercise, Weightloss

It’s been Insanity

Photos by Ryan Mowery

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone! Christmas has really taken it out of me. With all the shopping, baking, and working I’ve been doing, my week has been insanity. Literally! I started the 60-day Insanity Workout program last week, and I haven’t had the energy to do much else.

The Insanity Workout is one of the most, if not THE most, difficult workouts to be put on DVD. Apparently it is so strenuous that you have to be insane to do it. My friend Beth was gracious enough to let me borrow her DVD set, so I’d like to give a big thanks to her here. Now a week and a half into the program, I can attest that I do indeed question my own sanity while doing these videos. More evidence for why I might be clinically insane lies in the fact that I have only EVER done this workout after the hours of 1 am. I think it’s because I did the first one late, and have consistently needed at least 24 hours to recuperate before I can muster up the energy to do it again. To be honest, I’m not sure how I muster it up each night because it really is extremely exhausting just to think about it. I’m actually getting a little exhausted right now.

It’s common for me to look up at the TV from my sweaty, breathless exhaustion and gasp the words “you’re insane” at the digital image of workout instructor Shaun T.

The program, so far, is mostly an ongoing and extensive series of high intensity sports drills and power moves, with very little rest in between reps. Imagine doing sprints for 40 minutes straight…with push-ups and lunges and frog jumps. That’s what it feels like. I consider myself to be a pretty fit person, but after doing the Insanity Fit Test, my eyes have been opened to an entirely new level of fitness. Phil and I nearly vomited after day one. Even a week and a half in, I get pretty tuckered out just doing the warm-up…sometimes I have to take a brief rest.

Despite the extreme difficulty level of this workout, there is a lot about it that I enjoy. First, I like that it actually works. I have been eating a notable amount of cookies on a daily basis for the last week or so (give me a break, it’s the holidays!), but have still managed to lose a couple pounds. In fact, both my Mom and my friend Ryan told me that I look thinner in my face. Hearing those affirmations made me more motivated to stick with the program, and loathe it less. Second, I like that I haven’t really experienced any soreness. During each workout, Shaun T guides you through two stretching sessions: one after the warm-up, and another for a cool down. I believe them to be preventative measure for the soreness and stiffness that I often feel after working out. I think it’s also because the workouts are every day, so our muscles don’t have the chance to rest long enough to get sore. It’s nice.  Thirdly, I really enjoy the way the workouts are constructed; it’s no muss, no fuss. The entire workout is a good use of your time, and you definitely feel like you’re getting somewhere. You will sweat in places you never knew you could, and there’s an overwhelming sense of accomplishment after you finish. I imagine that it feels somewhat similar to running a marathon, but I really wouldn’t know.

Right now, I think that Insanity is doing a great job of helping me get into great shape, and lose a couple pounds while eating Christmas cookies. But after today, I will no longer be using the Christmas spirit as an excuse to indulge freely in sweets and things. I expect that for the next three weeks before Maui, my body’s changes will become more significant since I’ll be eating much (MUCH) leaner.

What’s really convenient is that there’s a week-long break for recovery between month 1 and 2 of the Insanity program, and it’s scheduled for the same week that I’ll be in Maui! A week off from work, a week off from Insanity, and a week off from Oregon rain. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

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Exercise, Weightloss

My Spin on Cycling

I’m not a pro at bicycling by any means. My boyfriend Philip will tell you that I ride like a girl. Maybe he’s right, but then again, he hasn’t seen me in spin class.

Cycling, also known as spinning, is one of those activities that is really hard if you’re not in shape. So even though I was in a hurry to get out of town yesterday, I decided to squeeze in a class before hitting the road. And as usual, I’m glad I did.

The experience of a cycling class is always fun–and also amusing. I can always count on the one or two newbies–usually a guy and a girl–that hide out in the back. Right off the bat, they’re recognizable by the way they aimlessly wander around the seat-less bikes. About 10 minutes into the ride, they look to the instructor with fear, as if pleading for a break. It’s funny to me now–watching the noobs. But I vividly remember being a clueless wreck when I entered the room of my first cycling class.

Maybe it’s the fact that I knew overweight people don’t look all that attractive on a bike. Or maybe it’s that I was conscious of the way my butt would look on that groin-smashing bicycle seat, bouncing up and down in the saddle for the person behind me to observe. Or MAYBE it’s the fact that my instructor was a very blonde, very lean woman in a hot pink tank top whose genuine hardcore-ness practically attacked me at the door. Either way, I was particularly nervous to try this thing. Her name was Jackie Brooks, and she is the most intense fitness instructor I have ever had. In fact, she was more of a coach than an instructor. When I think of her, I envision her large eyes, full of fire, drilling intensely into the back wall, (I like to think she was envisioning a race track ahead of her). She would yell things like “Don’t you quit on me! Gear-UP!” and “On a scale from 1 to 10, you better be at a sixTEEN!”

Since I took her class, no other cycling teacher has been able to come close. I’ve had enough bad cycling teachers to know how to value a good one. The worst one was an old hippie lady, very Eugene. She played awful music that seemed to make me sleepy rather than energized.  She forced us to put our cycles in a large semi-circle, so we we disabled from checking ourselves in the mirror. But worst of all, the hippie lady did not challenge us one little bit. Instead, she provided us with excuses to take it easy. “Don’t push too hard now,” she would say. Why on earth would I pay 5 dollars per workout so that I can take it easy? I’ll give you a hint: I wouldn’t.

I’ve also had a couple 20-something brunettes who put on a decent, but not spectacular, class. The first one was pretty tough, but she was also really interested in making sex noises while she egged us on. She was always moaning and saying things like “stay with me, and I’ll stay with you,” in a breathy voice. The other brunette was a peppy and talkative girl who was probably my age. She pushed us and gave good instruction, but she couldn’t compare to Jackie Brooks. She kicked my ass.

After that first day of cycling, I was hooked. I had never felt more victorious after a workout, and I couldn’t have been hungrier. I could physically feel the impact of this phenomenal activity. A massive amount of calories had been sucked from my system, and were replaced by void in my stomach. (Now I like to eat peanut butter granola bars immediately after class.)  According to Glamour Magazine’s handy health calculator, one can burn anywhere from 750-915 calories from doing 50 minutes of moderate to rigorous spinning. So it’s really no surprise that I have found cycling to be the best cardio workout I have ever had in my life. Yes, even better than running.

Similar to running, cycling is the kind of activity that you don’t want to push yourself too hard at. If you do, you could end up sitting in a pool of your own sweat while dizzily hovering over a toilet in the Student Rec Center bathroom…or something. (I think I was dehydrated). So as tempting as it is to push it to the max, it is also important to prevent yourself from hurling. Drink plenty of water throughout your day, so that when you show up to class you are ready to sweat it all off. Also, you should use proper form to protect yourself from injury, AND to get the most out of your workout.

I can’t stress enough just how important it is to bring a water bottle and sweat towel to class. After each drill, whether it be a seated hill or a standing run, you will be panting heavily and desperate for agua. (Luckily, your instructor will be blasting the music loudly, and masking everyone’s heinous breathing sounds.) I usually go through a whole bottle of water in one class, and there is frequently a decent amount of sweat on the floor when I’m done.

My recommendations are:

1. Take a cycling class.

2. Really listen to what your instructor says about proper bike set-up, and proper cycling form.

3. Push yourself hard, but not too hard.

4. Drink lots of water before and during your class.

5. Use a sweat towel.

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Exercise

Guess who got published!?

You heard it here first. I finally got one of my feature stories published! The Oregon Daily Emerald, an independent student newspaper, was happy to run my shiniest writing sample about hula-hooping in their SCENE section.

My favorite part is that my first published story is actually quite related to the topics I like to write about for my career (fitness). Hula-hooping, more recently called ‘hooping’, is actually a prevalent fitness trend that is thriving in Portland and Eugene. I’ve heard that it does wonders for the waist, and has meditative benefits as well – actually, why don’t you just read the article?

Click here to read my first published work. I would love to get feedback!

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Exercise, Uncategorized, Weightloss

Motivation via manipulation

Photos by Ryan Mowery

After more than a month of making unpleasant adjustments to your new fitness plan, you are starting to see obvious differences when you look in the mirror. A standard running distance for you is now a solid 2 miles, but you could probably keep going. Eating only healthy meals and snacking smart isn’t just easy, it’s second nature. You can’t help but agree when your family and friends tilt their heads in admiration as they acknowledge your slimmer shape.

Congratulations! You (like me) have achieved the funnest part about losing weight and getting fit. Let’s bask in it and perpetuate, shall we?

You should really take a moment to fully appreciate that your body and mind have made themselves comfortable in a marvelous and pain-free stage of the plan. At this stage of the game, fear, suffering, and laziness cease to exist. Even better that motivation, confidence and energy have taken their place and seem to be thriving.

I credit my own arrival at this place to my own dedication and ‘can’t stop won’t stop’ attitude.  But I also need to give thanks to all the tricks that got me through the dark place I was in throughout the first couple weeks of June.

I put on a good face, but as expected, June was rough. All I wanted to do was feed myself bad things like tortilla chips and french fries. If we’re being honest here (and I really think we are), there were a small handful of times that I cheated. I’m not proud of myself, but I must own up to this fact in writing. When cheating happens, it’s natural to want to give up on the whole ‘working out thing’ altogether. It can get out of hand. What I’m talking about is this mentality: “well I already messed up this whole day, so I may as well just not workout and start over tomorrow.”

But thankfully, I have plenty of little maneuvers in my bag of tricks that assist me in fooling, forcing, and sometimes guilt tripping myself  into exercising.   They’re not really tricks so much as they are blatant manipulation of the mind. Now I am aware that these tricks probably won’t work for everyone, but they certainly work for me. To develop your own self-motivating tricks, one must have a solid understanding of one’s own mind. Try these ones until you figure out your own tactics.  And when you do, please share them with me!

Vocalize it!

The next time you update your Facebook status or tell someone your plans for the day, make your exercise plans known. Say, “I’m going to the gym,” or “I think I’m going to go for a run.”  This will hold you accountable and reaffirm your plans to exercise while making you believe your own words. You have already decided you are going to workout, and have now made it public knowledge, so you better follow through!

Play dress up

Even if you’re loathing the workout, take the first step and put on your sports bra, workout clothes and tennis shoes. (Sometimes I even set out my clothes ahead of time to persuade me to put it all on. Tricky tricky!) Once you’ve put all this effort into changing your clothes, you will feel far too foolish taking it all off with that pathetic look of failure on your face. Now that you’re in the clothes, working out doesn’t seem like such a huge task, huh? Your brain goes from thinking you might not workout, to thinking that you must be since you’re suddenly strapped into the sports bra.

Wait out the weigh in

Wait a month between weigh-ins. This is one of the best ways to keep you motivated in the long term because you’ll see a bigger amount of pounds come off, and seeing that loss will keep you motivated for the next 30 days. This will, in turn, help you lose even more weight because you’ll stick with it. Eventually, your monthly weight loss will become less drastic, but this just means that you are in better shape, so you need to crank up the intensity on your workout regimen. The best part? You can handle a tough workout because you’re strong and physically fit.

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Exercise, Weightloss

I swear by workout videos

The topic of today is something that I’m sure many men automatically dismiss: workout DVDs. As my close friends and tolerant roommates know, I swear by these novelties.

Photo by Ryan Mowery

Why, you ask? They can provide the benefits of group exercise while conveniently allowing you to stay put in front of the TV! Personally, I need that skinny, spunky ball of energy at the front of the room barking out instructions. It’s much easier to do two sets of push-ups when someone more fit and competent demands it of me.

But when I don’t feel like being looked at or pressured by a room full of strangers, I stay home and take orders from my TV. For me, it’s sort of a way of being lazy and active at the same time. Meaning, I’m sometimes far too lazy to pack my bag, get in my car, and drive to the Student Recreation Center, so I just pop in a DVD, move some furniture aside, and move around (sometimes barefoot) in my living room. The scene usually involves me bouncing, bursting, springing and stretching across my living room, dressed in a pair of (probably too-tight) shorts amongst a few onlookers and a nearby water glass.

I have observed that many people don’t think they can get a good workout from workout videos. Silly geese. I have found that it is actually quite the opposite! Workout DVDs are easy only in the sense that you don’t have to put together your own workout routine and you don’t need to leave your house. But I get a more thorough workout by doing the videos than I would if I went on a run or did some strength work at home. This is likely because it’s so difficult to push yourself to your peak potential when you’re directing your own workout.

The hardest part about committing to workout DVDs is finding ones that will give you an effective workout even after your fitness level increases. Over the years, I have found easy ones, difficult ones, fun ones, waste-of-time ones, more than mildly irritating ones, and great ones. Here are my top three favorites that I currently use in my workout regimen:

The Biggest Loser Workout: Cardio Max

This is the most challenging workout video I have ever attempted. I often procrastinate doing it for weeks at a time because I become frightened at the thought. I almost never do it alone, and usually make my boyfriend, Philip endure it with me so that I can have someone to whine with during the process and recovery.

There are three levels of cardio that are designed to be added on to your workout as you become more fit and able. However, I’ve had this video for about a year and a half, and have only been able to do all three levels ONE time. The level 1 cardio is extremely taxing, involves hand weights, a lot of lunges, squats, and push-ups. Each of those exercises is made more difficult after one of Bob’s infuriating suggestions to “make it a little harder.”

Push through the power moves and you will feel a great sense of accomplishment afterward. You will sweat. A lot. And you will be sore the next day. In fact, as I write this all down I am enduring an extremely sore tushy brought on by my completion of Cardio Level 1 Wednesday night.

The Ultimate Fat Burn

The first time I did this workout I was VERY sweaty and surprised by the fact. Because of Amy Dixon’s peppy attitude and innate cueing ability, I soon became obsessed with it. I would do this video for most of my workouts (which I don’t recommend to anyone since it’s more effective to mix up your workouts), and it consequently became easier to execute.

I can tell when I’m out of shape if this video feels like it did the very first time, (this was precisely the case until fairly recently). However, even when I am in shape, I still get a sufficient workout from this video, and do it when I feel like a slightly easier, familiar and fun workout. One suggestion: use 5lb weights in place of 3’s.

No More Trouble Zones with Jillian Michaels

It’s great for picking and choosing which areas you want to work on a given day. But for an intensive, full-body strength workout, do the entire video. It is very difficult and long for a workout DVD, but also a very effective one. In the video Jillian uses 3lb weights, but I have only used 5lbs. About 24 hours after doing the workout, my shoulders are so sore that I can barely move them. And what an amazing feeling! It’s as if I can actually feel them changing shape, becoming more angular and chiseled. I’ve done the entire thing a couple of times, but I also like to pick and choose specific circuits.

Bonus suggestion:

Perfect Abs

I bought it on Amazon for around $8 and was really impressed by the difficulty level. The day after doing one of the challenging routines, I always feel the tightness in my abdomen. The routines are so short (6-9 minutes) that it’s difficult to find an excuse not to do them.

Next on my list to try is another DVD by Women’s Health Magazine, called “Total Workout in 10,” and Jillian Michael’s “Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism.” Let me know what you think about any of the workouts mentioned, or of any that you would suggest.


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